Episode 7: The One About The History of Classical Ed and Oak Meadow

“Welcome, listeners, to the Good Enough Homeschool podcast, where we cheerfully eviscerate popular homeschool curricula. In today’s show, AJ will give us a classical education history lesson. Finally, we’ll talk about Oak Meadow and what we love and what we don’t love.

From A.J.: Dorothy Sayers, Douglas Wilson, SWB, and the redefinition of “classical education”

Last time around, I talked a bit about the idea of “the grammar stage,” “the logic stage,” and “the rhetoric stage” that was popularized by Susan Wise Bauer’s excellent homeschooling guide, The Well-Trained Mind. I’d like to dig a little deeper into that history because I think it helps explain why there are several different definitions of classical education out there and why the modern classical education revival has been so closely tied with conservative Christianity and politics.

First, a couple of definitions. The Trivium refers to the study of grammar, logic or dialectic, and rhetoric, which were the three language arts disciplines established by the ancient Greeks and Romans. They were taught, in various forms, all the way through the European Middle Ages and Renaissance until at least the Enlightenment. 

Grammar referred specifically to training in Latin and Greek grammar and literature. Logic meant how to structure arguments correctly and dialectic is how to engage in debate. Rhetoric covers the art of persuasion, especially in public speaking.

So how did we get from those arcane subjects to the idea that young children are good at memorization and middle school kids are sassy?

Part 2: Oak Meadow

Courtney: First, let me start by saying I really like the concept of Oak Meadow. I have no idea if this is true or not, but I dearly love the idea of a bunch of hippies on a commune in Vermont sitting around and coming up with their own progressive, nature-oriented low-key curriculum. But, I never really messed with it much when my kids were younger because they tend to have integrated programs and my oldest child was so wildly asynchronous in her academic development. At one point she was on six different grade levels in six different subjects. 

When she hit middle school, I decided to look into their Ancient Civilizations, Grade 6. Keep in mind that I have a current teaching certification in social studies, grades 5-12, a B.A. in history with a specialization in Middle Eastern history, and I’ve professionally taught WTM-style history at both the middle school and high school level. When I review a history curriculum, I’m using that perspective.

Jenn:

 Reading and talking with Courtney really helped me to clarify my OM feelings.HEre’s a list of the grade levels and results that I’ve purchased:

Kindergarten- I wanted to love this, only it went so slooow. A letter a week? Nope. 

4th grade- We used the whole thing as is after coming off of a few years of MP and just wanting to slow down.

6th grade- bought and returned- the writing was way too hard

High school we used their art and photography and that kid is now getting her BFA in studio arts Photography so I guess that part worked? 

I just purchased a bunch of OM high school books as an insurance policy for having most of a high school curriculum here at home in case of apocalypse. I had the old American history from 2007? And then bought the 2018 version.

Lesson 4: Read about the American Revolution. This course doesn’t require a specific textbook. 

Students can research this on their own. They are told to make sure they read about 

The French and Indian War

British taxation and restrictive policies in the colonies

Significant events leading up to the American Revolution

Declaration of Independence

Articles of Confederation

Their assignment is to then write a newspaper article from the POV of either the Americans or British about another list of events like the Treaty of Paris.

All of this is creative and interesting, I like that you can tweak it for different students’ strengths- like you could make a newscast or something. But— this is what I think of as extra stuff. If students don’t have those pegs from earlier years none of this will stick either- no matter how engaged they are this week.

Further reading:

The Pandemic Created A Surge in Homeschooling: and Concerns about the Movement’s Christian Culture

Why I an (not) an Evangelical

I’m not going to be guilt-tripped about homeschooling

It’s not about charter schools. While I used to be firmly anti-charter schools, I have come to change my mind over the years. Vesia Hawkins, in particular, has persuaded me that for students who are frequently marginalized and under served by traditional public schools, charters are an important choice. For example, “only 17.5% of Black/Hispanic/Native American students read at grade level,” but minority students who attend charter schools focused on their success do better on test scores.

And though I used to be firmly anti-test, I have become persuaded that we cannot ignore them. Even though researchers can predict test scores solely on parental socio-economic status, regardless of educational quality, with the exception being the very worst schools, we cannot pretend these tests don’t matter. To quote Jasmine Lane, “Only those that have never had to worry about passing standardized exams have the privilege to say that tests don’t matter.”  So yes, I test my children.

I happen to think that our local public schools get quite a bit right, and are actually doing a very good job in many senses that the general public tended to ignore pre-COVID. For example, they provide medical and dental care, vision checkups, two hot meals a day, clothing for children in need, weekend food for parents who can’t afford to feed their children, referrals to social service agencies for the homeless, etc. These are all real, tangible benefits that our public schools provide and I think they’re critical family supports.

My choices are not because of ethnicity or race. Charter schools aren’t available in West Virginia, and neither is school choice—you get what you get, and you don’t throw a fit. My local public school is 92% white. West Virginia as a whole is 93% white. It’s not like my children’s diversity exposure would increase by attending my local public school. But, through their many extracurricular activities pre-COVID, they met children from all income tax brackets, from those whose parents can’t afford to buy their children lunch every day to those who hire full time, live-in language tutors. Because I have more flexible time as a homeschooling parent, I have led clubs and other extracurricular activities for all children.

My choice doesn’t impact what’s going on in the local public school. I still pay taxes (60% of my local property tax are levies for the district), and the fact that my children don’t attend means that more levy money is available for the local children because it’s not spent on my children. Furthermore, 25% of the local district’s funding comes through excess levies. That’s $135 per student, or $3200 per class that isn’t spent on homeschooled children in my district and stays in the district even though my children don’t attend.

Yes, the local district loses state aid on a per-child basis, but the statewide pot is enlarged for others because my children (and 20,000+ other children in West Virginia) aren’t getting a share. Only 12% percent of WV school funding is from federal public education funds. That means that West Virginia saves $247,456,000 a year by not educating homeschooled children, or almost a thousand dollars per student—nearly 8.5% of the total per student funding.  I don’t think many parents would appreciate their district’s budget being cut by 8.5% if homeschooled students moved back into public schools wholesale.

Parents of gifted children, especially gifted children with other exceptionalities to compound the issue, seek out private schools and many, many of them home school because public schools are not cutting it, after years of begging and pleading and IEP meetings. Often these children have significant mental health issues because of years of their needs not being met. I’m not willing to let that happen to my children.

I’m morally obligated to do my best by my children because they are my children. They are totally dependent on me for their food, shelter, clothing, and every other support in their life—and I made them that way by choosing to have them. I have to see my commitment through. If providing them with adequate support means providing them with more than my local public schools can provide, then that’s what I’ll do. Making sure our children have a better life than ours is part of what the US is all about.

Yes, my children would probably slide on through in public school, because as a middle class parent in the modern USA, I practice High Intensity Parenting. We make sure our children do the schoolwork that is assigned, and then we go beyond by doing after schooling with our children, signing them up for academic camps, theater classes, sports clinics and enriching their education in the ways that public schools are not. Nearly 70% of West Virginia fourth graders are not proficient readers. I want my children to be proficient readers and I will teach them myself if that’s what I have to do.

I would argue that parents of color who can afford it do the same thing—time spent on parenting has increased across all social classes in the United States, but middle and upper middle class parents spend 7 times as much on their children’s extracurricular activities as lower SES parents. If I’m going to spend money on a field trip, I don’t feel guilty about making sure it’s a field trip that my children actually have a real interest in—and those public school field trips are among the endangered classroom “extras”( like end-of-year performances) that we have deemed unnecessary.

It’s not that parents are adjusting the expectations of the local public schools—those are set in stone at the state and federal level. At least in West Virginia, school administrators, teachers, and parents don’t have much say in how schools are set up, no matter their SES. What about the general expectations of society for the local public medical system? We’ve had so much success changing that at the local level, haven’t we? Oh, wait, that’s not true. Why would it be true for schools? These are systematic issues, bigger than any one parent, teacher, or principal.

I was wildly underprepared for college level courses by my local public high school, but it wasn’t a bad school. They did the best they could with what they had for the largest number of children. My teachers were genuinely caring human beings, for the most part. But sometimes, the best that you can do just isn’t good enough. My choices were limited by my preparation, and I want my children to be able to make whatever choice they want.

Moreover, my children’s attendance at their local public school wouldn’t make it better for the children suffering in the bad public schools—and yes, they do exist, albeit not in my local district. My local district is one of the best in the state. Refusing to eat my dinner does not make anything better for a child hungry elsewhere in the world.

That said, my children may not deserve better than another child, but since I made the choice to bring them into this world, they deserves the very best that I can offer them. It’s my moral duty as a parent to do my best for them, and that means giving them every advantage I can provide—which does include a sense of humility about their privilege. I’m not ashamed of doing my best for my children, and I don’t think any other parent with a functioning moral compass would be either. In the end, my children are not sacrifices to an ineffable public good.

Introducing AJ Campbell and we stan the WTM: Ep. 6

“Welcome, listeners, to the Good Enough Homeschool podcast, where we cheerfully eviscerate popular homeschool curricula. In today’s show, we’ll introduce our new co-host, AJ Campbell. Welcome, AJ! Then we’ll talk about a common question: “Shouldn’t homeschooling be joyful? Instagram-worthy? Don’t kids learn better when they’re joyful about it?” Finally, we’ll talk about the Well-Trained Mind book and associated materials and what we love. Honestly, we can’t think of much (anything?) we dislike!
Let’s begin with AJ! (Full disclosure, we love AJ! He’s an admin on SICT, a tutor, and one of our wise sages of homeschooling.)

AJ: Thanks! I’ve been working in education since the 1980s and have been actively involved in the classical homeschooling world for about 15 years now. I started out as a homeschooling parent, then was a cottage-schooler, then a classroom teacher and administrator at a classical school in New Hampshire, and now I’m a private online tutor for writing, literature, and Latin, working with homeschooled students. I’m the author of The Latin-Centered Curriculum, a classical homeschooling guide that’s now OOP, and I Speak Latin, a Latin curriculum for elementary age kids. I’m married to Anne, who is a web designer, and we have one adult daughter, Ruby, who’s currently taking a pandemic-induced break from her graphic design studies. My family and I just moved from rural Western Massachusetts to Orlando, Florida. You can find me at quidnampress.com and the SICT group on Facebook.

Now let’s switch gears to our question of the day: “Shouldn’t homeschooling be joyful? Instagram-worthy? Don’t kids learn better when they’re joyful about it?” 

Jenn– Let me say, that if internet culture had been around when I was a young Mom I would have failed at it entirely. Especially for parents of bigger families the pressure to have every kid look put together, your house spotless, and every kid happy in order to Instagram your life to everyone you ever met and strangers? *picture me shrugging* It’s too much. 

Courtney–I think this idea that you should find joy in homeschooling is deceptive. Obviously kids can’t learn when they’re in full meltdown mode. But many sullen students have been poked and prodded through long division or learning phonics. Reading is hard. Math can be hard. It’s OK to acknowledge that something is hard, that we don’t want to do it, and that we’re going to do it anyway. If we just avoid everything that’s difficult, we’re going to have a hard-knock life.  I also think that making everything easy and happy for students robs them of the agency in mastering a difficult skill. We can successfully engage with things we don’t like–we do it all the time! I hate cleaning, but I engage in it every day!  

We throw out some love towards The Well Trained Mind Press Courtney works for The Academy so she stays quiet while AJ and Jenn say only nice things.

Side note from Courtney: SWB takes a lot of heat for not being religious enough on the one hand, and a lot of heat for including religion on the other hand. Personally, I am less interested in whether materials are religious and more interested in whether materials are effective. You’ll note that up until this point, Jenn and I have not differentiated between secular and religious materials. Part of that is because the definition of secular varies. Another part is that we’ve both been shamed by various groups for our choices in curricula, whether that choice was secular curricula or religious curricula. Good Enough Homeschool is about whether the curriculum is good enough, not about whether it carries a whiff of secularism or religion.

We talked in a previous podcast about what classical was. We do discuss curricula that aren’t seen as traditionally classical because these are frequently recommended, and we’d like to know what they’re about. Also, we discuss them because classical is open to interpretation–if you interpret it as different subjects at different age levels, then the content of the curricula is more important than the way in which the material is presented. Finally, we discuss a wide variety of curricula because we aren’t purists–we’re about what’s Good Enough, not what meets some debatable narrow definition.

Book Lists, Dr. Kripa Sundar, and BYL- Ep 5

In today’s show, we’ll talk about a common question: “How do I make a book list for my child?” Today we have a special guest, Dr. Kripa Sundar talking about distraction in curricula.  Finally, we’ll talk about BYL and what we love–and what we don’t love.

Booklist: I’m going to give away my secrets, and we’ll link to my free lists on our Amazon shop

First off, I’m so excited about this because I adore a curated booklist. It is one of the “chores” (air quotes) that I look forward to each year. 

  1. Don’t reinvent the wheel: there are a lot of companies that are literature based and they have wonderful booklists. There may be a ready made solution out there for you. I’ll list my favorites in the show notes.
  2. My old world go- to was the library, if your library is still open (by the way, what kind of reality has me uttering those words?) Simply go to the section of the subject matter and grab a stack of books, sit down on the ground and flip through them. 
  3. If you are online with your library, or Amazon- I highly recommend using Amazon as a bookish search engine- you can always request what you find at the library or order from your Indie Bookseller.
  4. Add Middle Grade or YA to your search term. Then add nonfiction, historical fiction etc.
  5. Example: children’s books american revolution brought me a list that was random and even included adult titles. historical fiction american revolution YA provided me with a great list.
  6. So, you’ve got the list and if you haven’t read any of the books, it is still a daunting task. Use the preview function and check the reviews. Book reviewers are honest, it isn’t like a vitamin review where people are getting paid to post 5 star ratings.You can check GoodReads also.
  7. What ratio of fiction/nonfiction should your reading list contain? I’m a big proponent of nonfiction written at or under the grade level of the kiddo. That doesn’t mean a board book for your 8 yo- it does mean that your high schooler shouldn’t have to struggle with a dictionary to get through a college level text. I’d aim for a 60/40 split. The larger end should be what your child prefers to read.
  8. My secret: Sometimes I add meaty picture books or graphic novels to even my high school lists. 

Thriftbooks

Library Extension

Curriculum Companies with excellent Book Lists:

The Well Trained Mind– Credit where credit is due- this is an entire book of book lists that will take you from K-12. There is no bigger bargain out there.

Build Your Library– more on this below.

Book Shark– (note neutral science)

Guest Hollow– (not all secular, but nonsecular is labeled)

Ursa Minor Learning

Wildwood Curriculum

Mater Amabilis– (not secular)

Winter Promise– (not secular)

You can find lots of great books for your kids even if the company is not secular. Check the descriptions and reviews on Good Reads.


In looking at curricula, parents seem drawn towards “pretty” curricula, with aesthetically pleasing color choices and lovely graphic design. But Jenn and I were chatting the other morning, and agreed that when the pedal hit the metal, we both preferred simple black and white textbooks and workbooks. I mentioned that there was a science to this. Can you tell us a little bit about this science and what you’ve found about how it affects learning?

Dr. Kripa Sundar is an independent consultant, researcher and parent working to spread the love of learning. She grounds her research and practice in the science of learning to inform and develop effective, engaging, and efficient learning

She is currently most excited about launching a resource hub for adults to support their kids’ learning called Learning Incognito and her forthcoming book How do I learn? for young kids to learn and explore how they learn, every day.  

Check out her website- www.kripasundar.com

Spoiler- We were slightly wrong in our hot take of pretty curriculum in Episode 4. Say it isn’t so.


Courtney mentioned Jennifer Hallock and her website- History Ever After.

We also talked about Build Your Library and how much we adore Emily’s booklists.

Courtney: Love the book choices, love the ability for a child to work independently.

Don’t love the younger years, but that’s partially because I don’t love Charlotte Mason’s younger. Not great for children who are not auditory learners, doesn’t demand enough in terms of handwriting, IMO. This illusion of joyous hours of reading out loud (I hate reading out loud). Very whole literacy movement that children will learn to read by exposure, but that’s not how it works. Students need to engage with material, and just having soundwaves in the room doesn’t make it happen. Need specific, directed narration questions–need to test them!

“Make sure to join our Facebook group Secular Inclusive Classical Teachers if you haven’t already where we talk about homeschooling all the time, with many veteran homeschoolers.”

“Thanks for listening to Good Enough Homeschoolers. Before we go, show some love for your favorite podcast by leaving us a review on SoundCloud. Then stay tuned for next week where we will show some love and hate for another curriculum.”

And finally, I’m plugging myself over at The Bookish Society. We are just getting started and I’m bursting with all the cool bookish programs that I’ll be rolling out this year! I’d love to see your child in one of our Round Table groups and/or help you with navigating the curriculum maze!

Classical Education in Our Words: Podcast Episode 4

What is classical education? The name is thrown around enough that sometimes I wonder what people mean when they self identify as classical home educators.

We talk about the stages:

  • Logic – connection (more, deeper, more difficult texts)
  • Rhetoric – argument (persuasive argument analysis)

Courtney says:

For me, it’s mostly about method. We put equal time for science and social studies in K-8, assign more language analysis (sentence diagramming), have a literature emphasis (as opposed to screens or experiential (i.e., unschooling). The focus is on building key background knowledge. Yes, we do Latin, but not as the “point” of classical homeschooling. Other views may vary.

Jenn says:

Can you classically homeschool without Latin? I think you could, but I also think that it isn’t what most people mean when they say classical. That’s something worth talking about because methodology should change with the times. The point of Latin to me is teaching English grammar and logic skills and speaking Latin would be a side benefit. So could you sub in another modern language? In Europe students learn 2-3 languages routinely – and that is everyone from age 6 upwards. So I think you could make the argument that learning any language other than your native one would provide the same neurological growth. Just my 2 cents. For me I chose Latin because I like to buy scripted or nearly scripted lessons.    

Recommended Book

We complained about yet another state department of education providing a non secular list of homeschool providers. Here is our more balanced list.

Note: If you’re looking for materials that are strictly secular, you’ll also need to make a decision between “neutral” science and mainstream science. Neutral science omits information about the age of the Earth (and universe) and evolution. Typically, religious kits include creation science.

School in a Box Kits with Mainstream Science:

  • Moving Beyond the Page: (K-9) “Moving Beyond the Page is a comprehensive homeschool curriculum that covers science, social studies, and language arts. Moving Beyond the Page curriculum is most closely aligned with what is known as the Constructivist Theory of Learning. Constructivists view learning as an active process in which the learner actively constructs knowledge as he tries to comprehend his world. Constructivist theory is about facilitating the learner to go beyond simple memorization toward understanding, application and competence.”
  • Calvert Education:  “For more than one hundred years, Calvert Education has provided families with the curriculum and instructional support to successfully educate their children at home. A carefully curated curriculum from best-in-class educational content providers. Traditional print materials/online format or Online only. Engaging projects that challenge students to apply what they learn in deeper, more meaningful ways.”
  • Oak Meadow: “Oak Meadow provides flexible, progressive homeschooling curriculum for students in K-12. Our student-centered, nature-based approach allows families to set their own natural rhythm of learning and encourages creativity, critical thinking, and intellectual development through hands-on activities and interdisciplinary projects.”
  • Build Your Library: “Have you been looking for a literature based homeschool curriculum that is secular? How about a way to incorporate narration, copywork, dictation and memory work into your child’s education? Or art study that ties into history? What about a secular science that is mostly literature based in the elementary years? Well, you have come to the right place! Welcome to Build Your Library Curriculum!” (Math, and if desired, spelling and grammar, must be purchased separately.)
  • Rainbow Resources Kits: “Made with the new homeschooler in mind, we wanted them to be easy to jump into and get started. We also wanted them to be solid and strong in academics. And we wanted them to utilize a variety of homeschooling products, so you would have a better idea of what works well for you and your students.”

School in a Box Kits with Neutral Science:

  • Timberdoodle: “The “Timberdoodle family” loves Jesus and we are thrilled to offer products with a Gospel perspective to our customers. When we choose our products, we look for ones that are the best and most unique overall, so sometimes it is Christian-based curriculum, and sometimes it is not. As always, we want to help you find what is best for your family, so if you are looking for a curriculum that has either more of or less of a Christian perspective, please feel free to contact us; we want to help you find exactly what you need!”
  • Bookshark: “BookShark is a complete, literature-based, homeschool curriculum developed for Pre-K to Age 16 students. Our curriculum uses a variety of educational resources including literary fiction and nonfiction, biographies, illustrations and hands-on experiments to deliver an engaging and complete education that extends beyond textbook memorization.”

School in a Box Kits with Religion:

  • Memoria Press: “The Classical Core Curriculum is a complete classical Christian curriculum that emphasizes the traditional liberal arts of language and mathematics and the cultural heritage of the Christian West as expressed in the great works of history and literature.”
  • Christian Light Education: “Christian Light is dedicated to the development and distribution of Christian materials to spread the Gospel and evangelize the lost; to edify, inspire, and build conviction in the saints; to strengthen families; to support the church; and to provide a Christian education curriculum for children and youth.”
  • Sonlight: “Books – quality books – can distill the wisdom of an entire life into the span of a few pages. They can feed us with spiritual insight beyond imagination. Whether written by Christians or non-Christians, great books help us to develop critical thinking skills. These benefits of great literature have inspired us to build our Christian homeschool curriculum on quality books that present content in a highly engaging fashion.”
  • Abeka: “Abeka’s curriculum is parent led and focuses on building character. Every subject is approached from a Christian perspective, and you’ll find Scripture and biblical principles used to emphasize or illustrate concepts. It’s all the basics for that grade level, plus art in preschool–6th and electives in 7th–12th.”
  • Bob Jones University Homeschool: “BJU Press is a publisher of textbooks and video lessons for homeschool families. We are committed to creating materials that help parents deliver an education that is based on sound educational principles, inspires a joy in learning, and is rooted in a solid biblical worldview. We believe this approach helps children see how all learning is connected and important. As mastery and perspective increase, so does the desire to learn and create. As Proverbs 14:6 says, “knowledge is easy unto him that understandeth.”
  • Our Lady of Victory: “Our Lady of Victory home study program was founded in 1977 by Roman Catholic laymen and was the first Catholic home school program established in the country. For over 35 years our apostolate has been dedicated to providing parents with the support and confidence that they need in order to succeed in their home school endeavors. Wherever the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass is discussed, you will find our materials always refer to the Latin Tridentine Mass, as promulgated by Pope St. Pius V”
  • Seton Home Study School: “Seton Home Study School is a nationally accredited, faithfully Catholic private PreK-12 distance school located in the state of Virginia. We serve an enrollment of approximately 12,000 homeschooled students, and several thousand more families through book sales and by furnishing materials to small Catholic schools. Seton Home Study School provides a Christ-centered, academically strong program designed for the Catholic homeschooling family in today’s world.”
  • Kolbe Academy:  “We are devoted to providing a philosophy and method of education that is thoroughly Catholic, that will form the whole individual—mind, soul and body—to renew the world with children and young adults with high educational, moral, civic and spiritual values. Kolbe Academy’s classically based curriculum focuses on studying the greatest spiritual, literary, artistic and cultural achievements of Western civilization by reading the original sources whenever possible.” (mainstream science)

Last but not least, we decimated the beautifully graphically designed Scientific Connections Through Inquiry.

Some Books Go Out of Print For A Reason Podcast Ep 3: Pandia Press

In today’s show, we’ll talk about a common question: “What is the best online curriculum?” Next, we’ll talk about types of curricula, and finally we’ll talk about the Pandia Press’s Ancient History, Level 2 curriculum, and why we won’t use it.

We chat about parents moving to homeschooling. They want all online curriculum and there are definite problems with most online curricula.

Don’t get wrapped up in pedagogy. When you start wading into homeschool curricula you are going to be affronted (accosted?) with so many kinds of methods. Put that aside for now. Think: one room schoolhouse. If you continue homeschooling after this is all over you can tweak a basic 3R routine into whatever flavor of homeschooling you desire. Remember that we are all in emergency mode. I was looking at Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs this morning and although we are accepting this new normal- none of this is the old normal and kids know that too.

For all ages you need Math, Science, History (social studies in school is history and geography), Reading and Grammar. Start with Math and reading and do a placement test test like DORA. Start your child where she is is even if the grade level is nowhere near their age group. You need to fill in whatever gaps she has.

For history, most kids in public schools haven’t had any substance so  I’d start with the ancients no matter what the grade level. Make a timeline and match your reading to the history and science. None of this is actually my idea by the way- it’s all courtesy of learning about education from classical educators like Susan Wise Bauer. In grade school I’m a huge proponent of interest led science so I’d choose something your kid wants to learn about and save more formal science progression for high school- although in the 4th edition of the WTM even Susan Wise Bauer has changed her stance and said you can switch up the order even in high school.

A great online store for all things homeschooling is The Rainbow Resource Center. You can search and more than likely they will have several homeschool programs with unique long descriptions. They do include religious curricula, but it is all marked. You may find that you are willing to tweak some religion out if it is an otherwise perfect fit for your student. They also have excellent pricing.


Look at all the sample pages you can before hitting that purchase button. It’s tempting to take too much on when you first begin learning at home. Concentrate on the minimum this year and leave some time for projects. I think we’ll talk about scheduling another episode.

Pandia Press says: *The Story of Mankind: Due to the polarizing nature of The Story of Mankind by Hendrick Van Loon, it is optional reading in this level two course. It should be considered a possible resource for gathering information. If students choose not to read TSOM, they might need to seek out other resources on the Internet or at a library in order to complete some of the lessons. 

We compared Van Loon to Wikipedia

In the seventh century, however, another Semitic tribe appeared upon the scene and challenged the power of the west. They were the Arabs, peaceful shepherds who had roamed through the desert since the beginning of time without showing any signs of imperial ambitions.

Van Loon

versus

The Nabataeans, an Arab people, formed their Kingdom near Petra in the 3rd century BC. Arab tribes, most notably the Ghassanids and Lakhmids, begin to appear in the southern Syrian Desert from the mid 3rd century CE onward, during the mid to later stages of the Roman and Sasanian empires.

Wikipedia

Here’s another example.

When they listened to Mohammed, mounted their horses and in less than a century they had pushed to the heart of Europe and proclaimed the glories of Allah, “the only God,” and Mohammed, “the prophet of the only God,” to the frightened peasants of France.

Van Loon

versus

The Umayyads continued the Muslim conquests, incorporating the … Iberian Peninsula (Al-Andalus) into the Muslim world. At its greatest extent, the Umayyad Caliphate covered 6,000,000 sq mi and 62 million people, making it one of the largest empires in history in both area and proportion of the world’s population. Survivors of the dynasty established themselves in Cordoba which, in the form of an Emirate and then a Caliphate, became a world center of science, medicine, philosophy and invention, ushering in the period of the Golden Age of Islam. The Umayyad caliphate ruled over a vast multiethnic and multicultural population. Christians, who still constituted a majority of the Caliphate’s population, and Jews were allowed to practice their own religion but had to pay a head tax (the jizya) from which Muslims were exempt.[12] There was, however, the Muslim-only zakat tax, which was earmarked explicitly for various welfare programs

Wikipedia

This is a problem with many older spines, and why I’m not terribly attracted to Ambleside or very pure Charlotte Mason style curricula, which tend to use older books. The racism, sexism, and casual xenophobia are baked into the texts that are chosen. 

Here is a handy dandy list of Middle Grade novels set in Ancient Times.

Torchlight: Why it Doesn’t Light Up Our Homeschool Lives Episode 2

And we’re back with our second podcast about secular classical homeschooling. This time we begin with this question:

  How did you handle that so you didn’t end up feeling like a terrible parent?

You’ll have to listen in for our answers. It’s tricky.

We also talked about more complete curriculum recommended on Facebook and why that may or may not be a great idea if you are new to the home education environment. Within that discussion Courtney mentioned The Overton Window and said,”  when the discourse shifts because the limits of acceptability shift, is something I think a lot about in homeschooling.” Follow the link to read more on that. The Let’s Go Learn tests can be found here.

And then we talked about TorchLight. Although parts of are excellent-– Right Start Math for instance–as a whole it isn’t for us. We do recommend these books:

If you like what you’ve heard please join us here on Facebook:

Also if you want to outsource some Classical Ed we love WTMA:

Meet the Secular Classical Homeschool Duo Podcast Episode 1

“Stacks of books on every surface…”

We know how to reel in our bookish homeschool people. We’ve been haphazard about blogging, and in these pandemic times, we’re worried about your new homeschoolers. Join us weekly to here all the tips and tricks we’ve learned over the years.
Episode 1 of our new podcast is ready for your listening enjoyment. Please sit back and let us school you on the finer and broader points of home education. Courtney Ostaff and Jen Naughton are a part of the old guard of secular homeschooling.
In this episode, you will hear our origin stories into the educational world of Secular, Classical Homeschooling.
Jenn and Courtney are two experienced homeschoolers who practice classical, secular homeschooling. Jenn’s been doing this since 2001, and Courtney has been homeschooling since 2014. Using their experience and expertise, they cheerfully eviscerate popular recommendations and curricula. Join them to hear what they consider the good, the bad, and the ugly.

In this episode we mentioned several books

a planning overview, from high level to daily detail

The first thing that I do is decide what topics I want my children to study. I made a decision a long time ago to do Well-Trained Mind style homeschooling, and I haven’t regretted it.

Since my youngest is 5, this is more or less her kindergarten year. I have less stress about kindergarten years, keeping in mind that the most important thing is to teach her to read. This led me to think about reading curricula, and in August, I decided to use Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons. I decided to use RightStart Level A for math, and the Core Knowledge Kindergarten History and Geography Unit 1: Let’s Explore Our World as a quick pass at social studies. State law requires that I teach science, too, and I’m fond of Building Foundations of Scientific Understanding. I also wanted to use parts of the Memoria Press (MP) Kindergarten program with the Kindergarten Supplemental Science & Enrichment Set.

Generally, I keep to my work schedule at the Well-Trained Mind Academy, which is five days a week, Monday through Friday. I don’t ask my youngest to do academics on Thursdays because they go to co-op, but my older child does math and some others things on Thursday (that’s a different blog post). My girls take my vacation days, too, which means an extra long mid-winter break that I’ve input into Scholaric as well. That gives me approximately 34 weeks of dedicated academics, or 170 possible days.

Now, this all sounds like a lot, but I use Scholaric to make a daily checklist, which is much less intimidating.

This is where Scholaric shines. 100 EZ Lessons is obviously, 100 lessons. Scholaric is lovely because I can input our vacation days, and then have it automatically lay out the lessons day by day. This way, even though  I know that we’ll finish up in March. (I’ve an idea that I’ll pick up with Ordinary Parents Guide to Teaching Reading and Phonics Pathways then.)  Similarly, RightStart has a set number of lessons. I spread the BFSU lessons out over three weeks or so, and I can tell Scholaric to do that for me. The CK social studies is designed to take six weeks, but I’ll let it go longer, too.

Once I’ve input what I want to do in Scholaric, I can then print out daily checklists. This helps me not have to remember what I had planned, because my life is busy and I’m absentminded.  If we don’t get to something, for whatever reason, it’s a simple click to bump that item to the next day and have it ripple down to the planned days in Scholaric. If we do more, then I can bump back too. I can also easily do loop planning this way, even if I take random days off. The printed checklists double as items I can add to a portfolio, especially when the bulk of the work is out loud.

Now, as happened with reading and my youngest this autumn, when the program I’d picked out doesn’t work, then it’s a simple matter to “hide” the row in Scholaric and replace it with something else. When I’ve settled on a curriculum, I rarely spend more than 20 minutes in a given week tweaking and printing.

We’re now using All About Reading, which is also clearly delineated as lesson-based, and therefore easy to input into Scholaric. I dropped the MP Kindergarten program because it’s been a difficult autumn, but I want to try and pick it back up again–I love having the books all prepared and the Q & As ready for me. I want to add in the Saxon K morning meeting work, too.

It’s perfectly normal for children to be on different grade levels in different subjects, especially when children have special education needs, and so this ongoing tweaking that I do in Scholaric helps me customize the education to the child. The daily checklists help me get it done on a daily basis, while the ability schedule lessons out to the future helps me do a bit of long-term planning.

5 Good Books on the “Why?” of Classical Education

Climbing Parnassus by Simmons

This was one of the first books I read about classical education, and I will confess that at first I didn’t quite “get” it. It seemed elitist, and a little oddball and frankly boring. Then, after doing some other reading, I read it again, and then I read it a third time, and only then did I “see.” Like so much of “classic literature,” you really need to have some background knowledge in order to get the full meat of the argument. I’ve chosen some of my favorite, more accessible quotes that I think make some good points about classical education.

“…the kind of citizens we wish to create and the kind of polity we wish to engender. For education is never neutral. Embedded within any course of study lie assumptions about what people ought to know, and about human nature itself: Are we Man or Machine? Education is, in the end, an auxiliary of philosophy — an embodiment of aims and ideals.

Humanism is “the belief that man is more important than his environment or his possessions; and that his fundamental business is not to understand [physical] nature, though that is one of his problems, nor to earn a livelihood, though that is one of his duties, but so to lead his life as to make the best of human nature and above all of what is characteristic of, peculiar to, and highest in human nature; or, as the Greeks put it, to achieve the arête [or ‘excellence’] of man.”

Matters of ethics, morality, and politics jostle as the vita beata, the good or happy life, is delineated, as it so supremely was during the fifth and fourth centuries B.C. in Greece, an age that, according to Livingstone, “had to face the questions which — now veiled now visible, now remote now insistent — constitute the eternal human problem: what should men believe about life, how should they live it, in what state of society can the good life be best lived, [and] how can we create such a state?”

Closing of the American Mind by Bloom

This is another book that I stumbled through the first time I read it, and came back to again and again. While I’m not alone in having serious problems with his conclusions, the general line of his argument is difficult to ignore and worth considering. If you think of education as shaping future citizens, then thinking about how society should be is key to determining what education should be.

Allan Bloom died young, of AIDS, and had he lived, would no doubt have been an irascible curmudgeon, but his book made me think, and eventually I concluded that I believe in moral objectivism a la Kant: there is a limit to human behavior, that some actions are simply intolerable, no matter when, where, or how they take place.

There is one thing a professor can be absolutely certain of: almost every student entering the university believes, or says he believes, that truth is relative.

The danger they have been taught to fear from absolutism is not error but intolerance.

Relativism is necessary to openness

The study of history and of culture teaches that all the world was mad in the past; men always thought they were right, and that led to wars, persecutions, slavery, xenophobia, racism, and chauvinism. The point is not to correct the mistakes and really be right; rather it is not to think you are right at all.

There is no enemy other than the man who is not open to everything.

…when there are no shared goals or vision of the public good, is the social contract any longer possible?

Men must love and be loyal to their families and their peoples in order to preserve them. Only if they think their own things are good can they rest content with them. A father must prefer his child to other children, a citizen his country to others. That is why there are myths—to justify these attachments. And a man needs a place and opinions by which to orient himself.

Consider This by Karen Glass

To be honest, I’ve never been particularly attracted to Charlotte Mason style classical education. It seemed awfully soft around the edges, a sort of slacker-style education. My first encounters with it didn’t do much to change my mind. Sit around and read good books? That’s all?!

As I’ve become a more experienced homeschooler, and stepped a little away from my innate dislike of formal literature and literature analysis, I’ve become more aware of how our perception of current society is shaped by the books we read, even those set in the past. With great power comes great responsibility, and so I’ve become even more selective about choosing books in our homeschool.

Thinking about how literature shapes us, I picked up Consider This at exactly the right time to be receptive to ideas like:

answers to such questions as “what shall we teach and how shall we teach it?” begin with a much more fundamental question: “what is a person?” or perhaps the wider, “what is man?”

Her first two principles assert that “children are born persons” and “they are not born either good or bad, but with possibilities for good and for evil.”

… education should create a metanarrative (or worldview) for children which will make sense of the world and create a standard of conduct by which they will desire to live.

A Defence of Classical Education by Livingstone

This was one of the first books about classical education that made innate sense to me. I later realized that most later arguments for classical education (including those in Climbing Parnassus) echoed this book, albeit from points of view that I didn’t necessarily understand at the time I read them.

Livingstone was writing at the height of the switch from classical education to “modern” Romantic education in the US & UK. All the current arguments about conceptual understanding versus procedural knowledge and utility versus background knowledge were derived from these first shots over the bow–only nowadays there’s no one left to coherently argue for the classical side. We must go back to the original debate to find our arguments.

It’s relatively short, and free of charge, and well worth flipping through. If my daughters reaped the benefit of classical education as per my favorite quote, I would be a happy woman:

Lord Morley says somewhere: “An educated man is one who knows when a thing is proved and when it is not. An uneducated man does not know.”

pg. 22

Norms and Nobility by Hicks

While I have serious qualms with many parts of this book, I think that there are some worthy arguments in this densely written book about the purpose and content of classical education. Hicks is a professional educator at private school, and his experience weighs in on his arguments. I am less impressed by the second half of the book wherein he actualizes his ideas. Generally, I finished this book unsatisfied with his supports and conclusions, but intrigued by the thread of the arguments.

The sublime premise of a classical education asserts that right thinking will lead to right, if not righteous, acting. … modern books on education which lay off this difficult premise by treating the mastery of thinking skills and the understanding of basic ideas in our Western (or any other) intellectual tradition as if they were sufficient ends of education. I cannot accept this. Nor am I convinced that an education aimed exclusively at the formation of a rational man will automatically assure mankind’s happiness or goodness.

pg vi